Pandemic News Overload: Don’t Let It Drive You Crazy!

“Starving, Angry and Cannibalistic: America’s Rats Are
Getting Desperate Amid Coronavirus Pandemic.”

No, we didn’t make up this terrifying headline. It’s 100% real and comes to us from NBC News. It’s an attention-grabber no doubt, but after two months of 24/7, wall-to-wall Pandemic news, is this sort of thing really what we want? The rational side of our brain says surely not, but our curious, guilty pleasure gremlin can’t move fast enough to click and read.

We all do it, but why? Isn’t all this scary, depressing, negative news starting to drive us all crazy, and what can we do to break the habit?

Just Google “Crazy Headlines” and this is what you get!

A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that too much news can have a downside. Time Magazine noted that more than half of Americans say the news causes them stress, and many report feeling anxiety, fatigue or sleep loss as a result.

Yet one in 10 adults checks the news every hour, and fully 20% of Americans report constantly monitoring their social media feeds—which often exposes them to the latest news headlines, whether they like it or not.

This focus on negative news is a conundrum, but don’t be too quick to beat yourself up. Paying more attention to the negative rather than positive may be evolutionary hardwiring from our ancient human relatives: a way for our brain to keep us safe. Scientists call it “Negativity Bias.”

According to Psychology Today, “From the dawn of human history, our very survival depended on our skill at dodging danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully, respond to it.” 

Our capacity to weigh negative input so heavily most likely evolved for a good reason—to keep us out of harm’s way. 

The COVID-19 crisis is about as serious as it gets, and we all want to stay informed. But a constant onslaught of negative news can’t help but darken our moods and it takes a deliberate effort to break the chain. We’ve had a few weeks to think about it, and came up with 5 tactics that are working for us.

1. Read or watch only enough news to be informed. Once we’re up to date on the essentials of what’s happening, we move on to other activities. For us, that usually means checking the news a couple of times each day. This sounds simple enough, but it actually takes conscious thought and effort. We ask ourselves the question: Is this new, pertinent information, or just a rehash of something we’ve seen before?

2. Put some topics on the “moratorium” list. If it truly raises your hackles, just don’t read it. For instance: there are a few high-profile politicians that never seem to add anything helpful to the conversation, and in the meantime, their counterproductive antics just raise our blood pressure. We’ve decided we can happily do without these stories, and we avoid them altogether. Once again, easy to say, but not so easy to do without a bit of attention.

3. Get the whole story. Headlines are designed to get our attention, and whether they intrigue or upset us, we make sure that we investigate enough to get the whole story. In a previous post we talked about not falling for clickbait headlines, and we try to practice what we preach.

4. Find positive substitutes for depressing news. Before COVID-19 assaulted the world, we all had fun interests and hobbies that kept us entertained in positive ways. Don’t let non-stop, distressing news drag you down. The internet is a window on the world with an unlimited supply of new, rewarding pursuits, and they’re only a few clicks away.

5. Bookmark a few “Good News Websites.” For a breath of fresh air, there are a few news websites that keep you informed without an overemphasis on the negative stuff. Their tagline says it all: “A daily dose of good news.

Everyone on the planet has been impacted by the coronavirus crisis, so it’s unreasonable to think there will always be a positive spin on the news. You can’t control what gets published, but you can control what you read and how it influences you. With a little effort and focus you can stay informed, remain upbeat, and keep your sanity to ride out the Pandemic.

Have a tip for conquering the news beast? We’d love to hear it.

Good Health and Good News,
James & Terri

Photo Credits: 1. The Creative Exchange 2. Pop & Zebra  3. James Frewin 4.  Keenan Constance 5. Jay Clark 6. Orlando Gutierrez 7. Naren Morum 8. Jorge Gardner 9. Elijah O’Donnell  10. Lora Ohanessian 11. Jon Tyson

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

51 thoughts

    1. Henry, over the past few years I’ve become more and more concerned with the amount of energy that I give the news, so I backed off to checking once a day. But when CV hit, there were so many unknowns, I found myself falling back into old habits. With so much news at our fingertips, it’s a slippery slope, so I’ve gone back on my news diet. 🙂 ~James

  1. I completely agree! I was really overwhelming myself with the news at first, but it really wore me out. The pandemic isn’t easy either way, and I’m certainly ready for it to be over, but sometimes you just have to shut it all out!

    1. Thanks for the comment Ashley and for dropping by the blog. You’re spot on about the pandemic news early on. It was a very scary time and with all the unknowns, we all wanted to be well informed. But after 2 months of the same grim news, we all have news fatigue – which shouldn’t be surprising. We have to put some sort of filter on it all to stay sane, and that’s really the point of our post. Take care of yourself and be well. ~James

  2. I love all the positive Corona stories. The block buster is of course ‘Captain Tom’. Have you heard of him? The 99 year old, started walking lengths of his garden to raise money for the NHS. His aim – 100 lengths before his 100th birthday and to raise £1,000. He’s now raised close to £40,000,000 (yes, you read that right!) and has been knighted!!! What a bloke. I love all the quirky things people are doing, like the man who climbed the equivalent of the height of Everest on his own stairs (6 hours a day for 4 days – going down didn’t count!) and all the wonderful learning opportunities available online. I only watch ‘regular’ news once a day. It’s nowhere near as uplifting!

    1. Excellent examples Tracey. It seems that when something bad happens the story gets churned over and over. And I guess that our negativity bias ensures that news outlets just keep broadcasting the same stories. The good news stories are out there, but they take more work to find.

      I saw an interview with Captain Tom, and what a sweetie. His wonderful attitude may be part of why he made it to 99. He, and all the others out there doing positive things during the crisis deserve to be knighted. The funny thing is there are so many unsung heroes stepping up and helping every day, but somehow, we just don’t hear much about them. ~James

  3. I stopped reading and listening to the news years ago for the very reasons you mentioned. I know what is going on and what to watch out for and that´s all I need to know. There are many positive stories out there like Captain Tom mentioned above, and kids doing amazing things to keep busy. Keep smiling and we´ll all get through this. 💗

    1. Darlene, good point about the amazing things kids are doing to keep busy. We’ve seen some wonderful videos online to remind us all that kids have the right idea about this whole affair: make the best of it. We saw a couple of cute sisters who taped glow sticks to their bodies and danced in a totally dark room. It was priceless, and exactly the kind of thing that needs to go viral. I’m glad to hear that things are doing a bit better in Spain. ~James

  4. That is a good list. i would only suggest one applies it to social media as well. An accident about ten years ago had me in a wheelchair for about three months, and I began using Facebook. I was amazed at how quickly it put me in touch with some old friends I hadn’t seen in decades. However, much of my career was in politics and government, so I had friends with widely varying political views. Some seemed to feel obligated to share those views. At first, when they posted some item of “fake news” I felt compelled to correct them. But those individuals – on both sides – aren’t looking for the truth, they are looking for confirmation. Now, I have reduced how often I check, I “hide” all political posts, I just read about what people are doing, I look for positive stories and try to only post positive items myself — and when it all gets too much, I close the page.

    1. Your point about Facebook it absolutely true, and we’ve both experienced exactly the same thing as you have. Because we travel so much, in the past FB has been a valuable resource to keep in touch with family and friends. But for many people it has gotten to be a forum for airing political views, and because there’s no real moderator, they feel free to say whatever they wish … and we’ve all seen where this leads. We still check in on FB every few days to see what our family and friends are up to, but other than that, we don’t consider it as “news,” which is precisely your point. Well said. ~James

    1. Thanks Beth. I think that with the constant coverage of the crisis, many of us have gotten jaded to normal headlines, and it takes more and more sensationalism to get our attention. And that’s one of the problems for sure. ~James

    1. Laura, aren’t those wacky headlines fun! I wouldn’t want to be the editor that let the slip through, but they’re really funny.

      And don’t get me started on clickbait. It’s one of my pet peeves for sure. I don’t mind attention-grabbing headlines, but many people never get beyond the headline, and that forms the basis of an incorrect opinion which just proliferates. This is one of the reasons we’re so politically polarized today. Whoops, there’s another pet peeve. 🙂 ~James

    1. If you’ve been limiting news for months, you’re ahead in the game. Songwriter John Prine wrote: “All the news just repeats itself, like some forgotten dream, that we’ve both seen.” The older I get, the more meaning these lines have. ~James

  5. For good or for bad, I don’t read, watch, or follow the news. So, I don’t get wrapped up in a downward spin. My husband checks some news sites in the morning and shares anything if importance with me. Not much, these days. I scroll social media once or twice a day – for my sanity and time management that is more than enough!

    When we sailed for eight years (away from the US), rarely anyone I knew – even my husband – got wrapped up in the drama of American politics. Yes, we might have lived in a bubble, but it caused much less distress than being on top of it all. That’s one behavior from our boat life that I liked and still apply now. When something important happens, be sure you’ll somehow find out about it (from others).

    1. Liesbet, we’ve never sailed for eight years, but we’ve had a few chances to be out of touch for long periods of time, and as you say, when you do get back in touch, nothing much has changed. Also, these days it’s takes real effort to get totally away from the news – even if you want to, and if something really important happens you’ll certainly hear about it.

      One of the things that we’ve enjoyed on our past few trips abroad is getting a break from the ridiculous political circus that’s going on in the US. But now that we can’t leave, we have to put a more active filter on the politicians and their shenanigans. ~James

  6. My #1 rule is to never, ever read any comments below a news story. There are wackos out there on both sides of every story who just want to fight. Talk about raising my blood pressure! My news consumption has gone way down during the Covid crisis – just too much overload, and I have so many better things to do!

    1. Lexie, that’s a great point about the comments on news stories and I totally agree. If you want proof positive of the wackos out there, comments are the place to see them. I know that from time to time we get a crackpot comment on one of our posts that’s deliberately trying to cause a confrontation. And the good thing about a personal blog is that we just don’t approve it for posting. I assume that the news organizations either don’t have time, or don’t want to moderate their comments, and you see what we get. As you say, it’s just better not to waste time on these comments. ~James

  7. I swore off the news altogether as soon as I saw that we were all entering a pretty dark zone. Didn’t need it. And I knew that I’d learn what I needed to by osmosis – from friends, family and the odd byline that spammed its way into my field of vision. More than enough. I’m getting life done instead. Hugs to you both!

    1. Amit, your approach to news doesn’t surprise me, as it fits your personality well. Life is too short to worry about things that you have no power to change. And in the meantime, if you have a choice between positive and negative, why not be happy. It sounds corny but I believe most of the time it’s possible. Take care. ~James

  8. I hope you’ve watched “Some Good News” on YouTube! It’s lots of fun and very uplifting! Love to you both!

    1. Thanks for that tip Anita. T and I do lots of Youtube streaming, and lately, most has been the late-night comedy shows. We’ll definitely check out Some Good News Youtube channel. Take care. Love, J&T

  9. It makes me sick to think of how much of our civil rights we’re relinquished and by George, this pandemic sure came at a crucial time on the financial economic front.
    You got to wonder…
    Leslie

    1. Leslie, unfortunately, under these type of dire circumstances, lots of individual rights go out the window. The good of the many outweights to good of the few. And on the financial front, I’m afraid that the real shakeout has yet to come. Even when folks get back to work, the uncertainties of job security, and lack of income is going to trickle through the economy with serious results. I hope I’m wrong, but we’ll see. ~James

      1. I agree with you that the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, however we’ll see how long it takes to get our rights back. Trudeau has already extended his powers to exceed until well after the next election.
        Leslie

    1. Curt, as you know, it’s all about personal choice, and as long as you drive the train, that’s good enough. When the crisis broke, I found that it was easy to get sucked into an endless stream of news that really wasn’t accomplishing much, so I started being way more selective about my consumption. Now I’m back to where I was pre-COVID, and all is well. ~James

    1. Thanks Shelley. In the post I say that taking more control is easy to say, but harder to do, and that’s exactly what we found about our news viewing. Like any other bad habit, it takes effort to break, but we’ll all be better off if we decrease the level of stress as this crisis drags on. ~James

    1. Thanks for the link. I had seen lots of mentions of SGN, but haven’t really watched any episodes. Now, I can go back and binge. Thanks again for the good news. ~James

  10. I’ve realized that when there are new developments coming in I get really stressed out so I’ve been using the forest app on my phone so I can’t check it or just turning it off completely.

    1. Jenna, I haven’t heard of the Forest app, but I’ll check it out. I remember from my days of learning meditation techniques that staying truly in the present was considerably harder than I thought it would be. And anything that helps with this is a good stress-reducer. Thanks for the info. ~James

  11. I rarely watch the news anymore as even before all of the pandemic craziness, I found it to always focus on all things negative. There are so many good news stories but sadly that is not what sells. If I feel the need to update myself on current affairs, I ensure I seek out a reliable source. I have also made a few friends’ newsfeed from social media as it drives me crazy the stuff that people post that is just such crap!

    1. Lynn, one good thing about internet news is that I can pick and choose what I want to read instead of watching pre-packaged TV content that someone else decides is important. From all the stories that get published in all types of media, the “negativity bias” is alive and well. Luckily, we have lots of choices, and it sounds like you exercise that choice. Good for you. Take care and be well. ~James

  12. Something that has helped me to limit the news overload is that I subscribed to a couple of daily newsletters. One is the NY Times and the other is MedPage. NY Times gives a summary of the essential news of the day and the MedPage gives good science based news on the pandemic and other topics. If I look at these first, I can bypass other click-bait stories that show up in my newsfeed because I am already informed on that story.

    1. Vickie, this sounds like the perfect solution: a curated collection of reports from a reliable source, accompanied by accurate science. This distills the latest news to its essence, and you don’t have to worry about reliability. Thanks for your input and comment. Take care. ~James

  13. I do the moratorium list. I find one certain politician so frustrating etc that some days I deliberately tune that person out. It is all repetitive anyway, no change in how that person acts. However I must admit that after a few days I have to check and see what that person has said or done. I compare it to how people slow down to look at a car crash, rubbernecking it’s called. This politician is a car crash that just keeps on.

    1. I hear you David. I deliberately didn’t mention the name of my moratorium politician because I didn’t want the post to spiral off into a heated political debate, but I’m with you. I just started week 3 of my total moratorium and life is good. You are so right that he doesn’t change his behavior, so reading news reports is just more of the same. He’s addicted to attention, and if he can’t get the good, he seems to like the bad just as well. I refuse to waste any more energy on him. In the meantime, there’s lots of other things to read and explore. ~James

  14. I am doing better with processing the news; however, there is more than the pandemic to worry about. Now the racial unrest is topping the news hour, and I’m saddened even more. There were a few silver linings here, and perhaps everywhere: school officials have tried to congratulate grads any way they can, and parents have gotten into the action with yard signs, drive-by ceremonies, etc. We’re all trying not to go crazy, but when you’re inside a lot with TV on, it’s hard. I know. I know. Turn the damned thing off!

    1. Rusha, I’ll be the first to admit how easy it is to get sucked into watching the news, so I understand exactly how you feel. When the CV first broke in the US, like most people, I couldn’t get enough info, and I got into the habit of checking throughout the day – whether any new information was available or not. At some point, I realized that all that worry was getting me nowhere, which is why I finally had to put a stop to what had become a mindless, counterproductive habit.

      And on the silver lining side, we went to the park yesterday, and it was buzzing. It was a pleasure to see so many folks out enjoying the nice weather with lots of social-distanced picnics going on. Things will come back, I’m sure of it, and all we have to do is stay sane in the meantime. Take care. ~James

  15. I admit I don’t follow much US news about the pandemic anymore. Trump just inflames, deliberately distracts and confuses too many people. Very dangerous. It’s important I focus on what is going on in Canada in trends and rules, as a Canadian.

    I go to the CBC website, for more academic written in layperson’s terms, go to TheConversation website.

    1. Jean, I didn’t specifically mention the “high profile politician” that I put on a moratorium, but I’m sure it was pretty obvious. I totally agree with your opinions about Trump. It should come as no surprise that he’s behaving the same way in this crisis as he has for entire presidency (and probably his entire adult life), as a megalomanical divider. He’s the president, and there’s nothing I can do about that, but I refuse to waste any more time reading about the latest destructive thing he does. And the good news is that it’s freed me up to spend time on websites like the one your suggest. Thanks. ~James

  16. Watching the news can be so depressing, we rarely see any positive news or things that are uplifting. I have been limiting myself to just watch the 5 pm Downing Street Briefings on coronavirus and the 6 pm news soon after. I like to stay informed, but not obsessing over it, sometimes I just take time off from it all and disconnect. I love your collage of the “crazy headlines”.

    1. Gilda, your approach sounds like a good strategy. The problem I had early in the crisis was that I was repeatedly getting pulled into reading updates that really were just a re-hash of what I had read before. My approach now is that I rarely “watch” news at all, but get it online so I can pick and choose what I do and don’t read. These days, with all the news outlets available to us, there’s not much of a chance that I’ll miss something important. Aren’t those crazy headlines funny. I wouldn’t want to be the editor that let those slips through the cracks. ~James

  17. These are wise words which I should likely read each morning. I am improving as the pandemic goes on as one can only tolerate so much depressing news. With summer now here the ability to be outside and enjoying nature more has been a huge help.
    A suggestion I would have is to find ways to help others. Are there seniors ( well older than the seniors we are) who need help with yard work? Is there someone who is isolated who could use a phone call? I recently signed up to assist on an app for the visually impaired where people who need assistance with things like the expiry date on a jug of milk or what sweater goes with their outfit, can video call. I think helping others is a boost no matter the time and helps us get outside of ourselves and the gloom.
    Sending our best wishes and hoping this finds you well.
    Sue

    1. Sue, it doesn’t surprise me at all that you would have an app to find folks that need help. I suspect that it was in your nature to help long before the Pandemic began, but extending a hand is particularly useful now.

      I’m not sure how things are in Canada, but here in the US, daily life and the response to the medical crisis is gradually changing as businesses, shops, and other concerns open up. The panic is over and I think that lots of folks have adjusted to the idea that COVID is with us for the forseeable future and life, with the appropriate adjustments, has to go on. Most thinking people will assess their personal risk and take whatever measures are necessary to protect themselves, and hopefully, others as well. You and Dave take care. ~James

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